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the lower but still most beautiful field of Ornament, was not lost on the other 

artists of their own period and of succeeding times. From them, and by their means, 
it descended to, and spread widely among, the people generally; and the result at 
the present day is seen in the all but universal love which prevails over the 
Continent for every thing that is associated with Ornamental Design, either in 
art or manufactures. 

In so far as this circumstance bears on the mercantile prosperity of our own 
country, it is pregnant with questions of vital interest; for it is well known that 
to foreign countries, especially to France, has long been conceded a pre-eminence 
in this branch of commerce, solely from the perfection to which it has there been 
brought, — a result greatly aided by the fact, that the governments of many of these 
states have ever been deeply impressed with the importance of the subject, and 
fully alive to the necessity of giving every support to the theory and practice of 
Ornamental Art. In this country, until a recent period, a different course has 
been pursued, of which the injurious effects are easily perceptible; but a wiser 
policy at length prevails, and we are already beginning to reap the fruits of that 
better system which is now at work in aiding and encouraging the energies of the 
people to a successful rivalry of their Continental neighbours. Schools of Desi<m 
are not only being organised among us, but are extending their influence in many 
directions ; and it is to be hoped, that ere long the system will be so completely a 
part and parcel of our national scheme of education, that no mechanic however 
humble his calling, will deem himself exempt from the necessity of obtaining his 
ticket of admission to the classes of these institutions. The great advances, too 
made within the last few years in many of our manufactures requiring the aid of 
Ornamental Design, are sufficient proof of the growing estimation in which this 
branch of art is held by the public ; and it argues well for the improving taste of 
all classes, that a tolerable appreciation of the Beautiful, as connected with articles 
of household and daily use, is now regarded not only as desirable, but almost as a 
matter of course. It is pleasing to reflect how much this is calculated to conduce 
to the happiness of society, in the increased comfort of which such a taste is the 
certain harbinger ; and in this light, a love for the refinements of Art must ever be 
considered an essential and positive good, — as an element, with other branches of 


increasing knowledge, in elevating the character and ameliorating the condition 
of the human race. 

Under these circumstances, it is reasonable to expect that every attempt having 
for its object the further improvement of our Manufactures, by instructing and 
otherwise aiding those who are engaged in their production, will receive the full 
amount of encouragement due to its intrinsic merits ; and in this belief the present 
publication, consisting principally of a series of Original Designs, modelled on the 
highest authorities both ancient and modern, is now offered to the public. 

In every means that may be adopted to impart an accurate knowledge of Orna- 
mental Design to the ordinary mechanic, too much care cannot be observed, both 
as regards the examples set before him, and the way in which the necessity is en- 
forced of a strict adherence to the true principles of Art; for in cases where a certain 
degree of excellence has been acquired, independent of a correct rule, the workman 
is not disposed to retrace his steps by undoing what he considers already sufficient 
for his purpose ; and in the case of others who are less advanced, the rules and 
patterns of the shop are preferred to- the rules of Art, because more easy of attain- 
ment, and more in accordance with their limited views on the subject. It is thus 
no uncommon thing to find, in workshops where decorative art is practised, examples 
daily occurring of a total disregard of every element which constitutes either purity 
of taste or correctness and oneness of design. We see the Gothic mixed at random 
with the Grecian — the Elizabethan, the French of the period of Louis XIV., and 
the Flemish, with the Roman, the Moorish, and the Egyptian ; and all these con- 
stantly overlaid with a variety of ornament invented for the occasion, the main ob- 
ject in most cases being to hide the defects resulting from an entire want of know- 
ledge of the principles which ought to regulate the choice and arrangement of the 
various materials, and to arrive only at showy effects, however incongruous and de- 
ficient in good taste. Nor is the workman altogether to blame for this, seeing how 
little has hitherto been done to draw his attention to the all-important but simple 
fact, that mere natural talent and manual skill are in themselves inadequate to 
bestow that chasteness of style, correctness of detail, and dexterity in combination, 
so absolutely necessary to insure success in Ornamental Design. 

The object of the present Work is to remedy, so far as it may be capable of 


doing so, these and similar errors and incongruities; and to supply to the public in 
general, but especially to those trades in which a knowledge of Ornamental Design 
is required, a correct, simple, and copious guide in that beautiful art. The CABINET- 
MAKER, Ironfounder, Painter, Brassfounder, Silversmith, Paper-stainer, 

Engraver, Wood-carver, Frame-maker, Damask-weaver, Bookbinder, and 
many others, will find in this volume materials suggestive of an infinite variety of 
chaste and classical designs, arranged on principles so clear and comprehensive as 
to present examples capable of being appreciated and used by every workman ; and 
it may be noticed, as a peculiar and most important feature in the plan of the Work, 
that in the arrangement of the Designs for each particular trade, care has been 
taken to render the whole Series susceptible of being modified, re-arranged, and 
adapted to the use of tradesmen in general; so that the patterns intended more 
immediately for the Ironfounder, Bookbinder, Painter, or Cabinet-maker, may with 
the greatest facility be transposed (if we may use the term) for the various purposes 
of any of the other Trades mentioned above. 

In conclusion, one point above all others will be kept steadily in view throughout 
the course of the publication — viz., the General Utility of every Design intro- 
duced. It is intended, from time to time, to present copies of rare and valuable 
Etchings by some of the great masters, as in the beautiful group in Part I. by Guido, 
after Lucas Cambiaso ; an arrangement which, it is believed, will be of great ad- 
vantage to several of the ornamental trades, especially to the Silversmith, House- 
decorator, Modeller in stucco, and Wood-carver, and may not be unserviceable even 
in the higher walks of Art. These instances, however, will not be of frequent oc- 
currence, the main purpose of the Work being of wider application than to admit of 
more than a very limited proportion of such designs ; but their occasional introduc- 
tion cannot fail greatly to enhance its value to the Trades just mentioned, as well as 
to purchasers generally. With these brief remarks the Work is presented to the 
public, whose patronage no exertion will be spared to deserve and to obtain. 


The principal purpose of the following remarks is to render clear and intelligible 
to those engaged in the various departments of manufacture connected with Orna- 
mental Design, the nature and peculiarities of the various modes of embellishment 
and styles of decoration, invented and practised by different nations ; to show that 
all of them have their origin in nature ; to point out the differences that exist 
between them ; to assist in the selection of such portions of them as seem suitable 
to our own time and country ; and to impress upon the Ornamental Designer the 
propriety of looking to Nature herself as the great primal source of all beauty. 

In seeking to accomplish these objects, it will also be necessary to enter into a 
careful examination of the present state of the Ornamental Arts ; to inquire particu- 
larly into the general taste and knowledge displayed in the manufacture of articles 
of dress, of furniture, and of vertu, as well as that exhibited by those who practise 
the decorative arts, in working out the details, or enhancing the effect of public 
structures, or private dwelling-houses, either externally or internally. 

From what has been said, it will be seen that the ensuing remarks are intended 
to embrace a great variety of trades and manufactures ; and it is hoped that the 
working artist, whether engaged in drawing, painting, modelling, carving, casting, 
weaving, or dyeing, will find the principles applicable to these arts laid down at once 
in a plain, correct, and useful manner. 

Simplicity and truth are unquestionably the principal elements of all beauty, 
and the foundation of all artistic excellence. Objects addressed to the eye must 


please at first Bight ; if they do not, no process of reasoning will afterwards reconcile 
us to them, far less invest them with the beauty sought for or expected. To speak 
of works of art growing upon our liking is absurd. Persons may, and often do, 
improve on acquaintance, but works of art never. The perception of beauty is inhe- 
rent in the human mind, which is rapid in its combinations, and prompt and 
irrevocable in its decisions. 

Man, in his primitive state, feels a strong desire to imitate and perpetuate that 
which is beautiful ; and hence it is that we find him attaining considerable skill in 
ornamental arts, before he has acquired any knowledge of those which contribute more 
immediately to his social comforts. The South Sea Islander, with no better instru- 
ment than a piece of shell or talc, produces specimens of carving closely approach- 
ing the most successful efforts of our best artists ; and in several authenticated 
fragments of ancient British art, ornamental details are exhibited nearly equalling 
the best specimens of Greece or Rome. The savage who roams through the pathless 
forest, decks himself with the beautiful productions of nature, thus showing that 
an appreciation of beauty is an innate principle of the human mind. The first 
adaptation of natural objects to decorative art, is in the adornment of the person ; 
when this propensity is extended to the dwelling-place, it evinces a more advanced 
stage of refinement and of social improvement. This development of what is un- 
doubtedly an innate principle of the human mind, enables us to affirm, that the basis 
of every style of ornamental decoration is to be found in the general aspect, and 
natural productions, of the country wherein each style had its origin. 

Every style of Ornamental Art has its peculiar features, and perhaps it may also 
be said its peculiar beauties, although artists often betray a tendency to think lightly 
of every style but that which has struck their fancy, and has become the object of 
their admiration and the subject of their studies. The diligent student, however, 
who comes unprejudiced to the inquiry, will soon discover that every style has some- 
thing to recommend it, something which renders it peculiarly adapted to the age and 
country in which it has been most generally practised : he will, probably, also discover 
that beautiful combinations are to be found in each and all of the various styles, and 
that though the elements of beauty are few and simple, they are capable of the most 
diversified arrangements and combinations, and present, in their practical application 
to the purposes of art, a boundless field for invention. This proposition we shall 
hereafter have occasion more fully to illustrate, when examining the peculiarities of 


the different styles of Ornament. In the mean time, it may not be amiss that the 
young student bear in mind that we have native plants and flowers equal in beauty 
to the lotus of the Egyptians, or the acanthus of the Greeks, and equally well 
calculated to form the basis of a school of Ornamental Design. 

It is evident that if the decorative artist has a knowledge of what has been done 
in his art in other ages and in other countries, and has been taught to appreciate the 
uses and spirit of these productions, he will be enabled to select such portions as may 
suit his own peculiar views, and harmonise with the general character of his work. 
If he have the higher faculty of invention or adaptation, he will, from having such 
information, be better able to avoid repeating that which was formerly done, and, 
consequently, his work will be all the more original. But as this divine faculty is 
rare, so is the necessity proportionably great, for skilful manipulation, and a thorough 
knowledge of his art, to compensate this desideratum on the part of the artistic 
workman. In the difficulty which every practical and inventive decorative artist has 
experienced in getting assistants qualified to work out his ideas, we have a forcible 
reason why our mechanical manipulators should be more thoroughly educated than 
they have hitherto been. Were this the case, they would be better able to work from 
the sketch of the designer, and to bring out every minor feature which, in a hurried 
sketch, may have been omitted. The Marble-cutter, for example, who has been 
furnished by an architect with a slight sketch, on a small scale, of a mantel-piece in 
the Louis Quatorze style, could never work out the detail in full size, and in its true 
spirit, unless he were thoroughly versant in the peculiarities of that kind of ornament. 
Neither could the Brassfounder, Plasterer, Upholsterer, or House Decorator, produce 
such articles as might be required in their departments in connection with a building, 
unless they were equally acquainted with the style to which the structure belonged. 
In addition to this information, they also require to have at command examples to 
which they can continually refer, and from which they can occasionally borrow. 
Without such aids, without ready access to a copious and judicious selection of 
examples from approved sources, such as it is hoped the present work will supply, 
the working artist's resources will be incomplete, and his progress slow and unsatis- 

Requesting the reader to keep these preliminary remarks in view, we now pro- 
ceed, as proposed, to enquire into the nature and peculiarities of the various modes 
of embellishments, and styles of decoration, invented and practised by different 



nations, and shall begin by giving a brief description and analysis of the ornamental 
arts, as practised in Ancient Egypt, now universally acknowledged to have been the 
original seat of the Arts and Sciences. 


No nation has ever surpassed the ancient Egyptians in the imitative and ornamental 
arts ; and this because their works were pure emanations of genius, embodiments of 
high and original conception, and not copies of previous creations. The gigantic 
structures of Egypt still continue to excite universal wonder and admiration, and 
there is not a portion of these magnificent edifices wherein we cannot trace the 
imitation of natural objects. The lotus was a most important element in the 
religious system, as well as in the daily economy of the ancient Egyptians ; and its 
simple and graceful form has received many modifications at the hands of the 
Egyptian sculptor, who selected and adapted with great taste natural models for 
architectural ornament. The bottoms of many of the pillars are gracefully rounded 
like the calyx of a flower, and the lotus, the palm, and the papyrus are visible both 


in their shafts and capitals. On the outside of the graceful curvature of the capitals 
are frequently to he seen also the bulrush and the vine ; and in some cases we find a 
near approximation to the volute of the Ionic, and the leafy foliage of the Corinthian 

In the imitation of natural objects the Egyptians were eminently successful, they 
manufactured and coloured glass in such a way as to be mistaken for the amethyst 
and other precious stones ; and when their chairs, tables, and sofas were made of the 
more common descriptions of wood, they were painted, with the happiest effect, in 
imitation of foreign varieties — the various knots and grains being indicated precisely 
in the way practised in the present day. These successful imitations of rare and 
costly articles, through the medium of the most common materials, show that the 
Egyptians had attained a high degree of civilisation. 

The art of casting and engraving gold and silver plate was also well known to this 
enlightened people, whose skill in these manufactures is attested by numerous gold 
and silver vessels, and by quantities of jewellery, still preserved, all of the most 
elegant form and exquisite workmanship. Lotus flowers in enamel, amethysts, 
pearls, imitations of shells and leaves, with numerous figures and devices, were 
common on the bracelets, necklaces, and rings which once adorned the persons of 
the ladies of Thebes. 

The Egyptians were skilled in all the methods of applying gold, whether in leaf 
or by inlaying it with other metals. The method they had of beating out their gold 
leaf, which was extremely thin and fine, was in all probability similar to that recently 
practised in Europe. The faces of mummies, and sometimes the entire bodies, were 
gilded, and the painted clothes as well as the wooden coffins were profusely orna- 
mented with gold. 

Many of the Egyptian vases bear so strong a resemblance to those produced in 
the best epochs of Grecian art, that some have imagined them to have been designed 

after Greek patterns. Their high antiquity, however, is 
sufficiently attested by the remote periods when they were 
executed. The gold vase, the form of which is here 
shown, is said to have been made 1500 years before the 
Christian era. 

Sculpture was much employed in the decoration of the temples and palaces — the 
walls of which were covered with reliefs or intaglios : those of the temples repre- 


senting religious subjects, while those of the palaces were delineations of battles, 
hunting scenes, and occasionally the occupations of daily life. The difficult art of 
sculpturing granite was also well known ; and the hieroglyphics on granite obelisks 
and other monuments are scidptured with a minuteness and delicacy of finish which 
modern artists have not yet attained. The Egyptians were also skilled in the 
compounding of metals, many of their bronzes retaining smooth and bright surfaces, 
though buried for ages, and afterwards exposed to the damp of European climates. 

The Egyptians were a domestic people, and extremely attentive to the decoration 
of their houses. Their articles of furniture were at once rich in colour and graceful 
in form; and the commonest utensils were characterised by singular elegance. Their 
chairs and couches were about the same height with those now in use ; and were 
nearly the same in form and construction. At an early period the skill of their 
cabinetmakers had obviated the necessity of uniting the legs with bars ; and they 
were generally formed in imitation of those of some animal, the foot raised on a 
small block or pin. The back of the chair was occasionally concave ; and in many 
of the large fauteuils a lion formed an arm on either side. The cushions of the 
fauteuils and couches were of coloured cotton, painted leather, or gold and silver 
tissue, and the framework was frequently bound with ornamental metal plates, or 
inlaid with ivory and foreign woods. The cuts here introduced will give an idea of 
the forms of the chair, the camp stool, and the couch, which bear considerable 
resemblance to those of the present clay. 

The walls and ceilings of the Egyptian apartments were richly painted, and 
generally with exquisite taste. The ceilings were laid out in compartments, each 
having a geometric or foliated pattern with an appropriate border. The favourite 



forms were the square, the diamond, the circle, and the succession of scrolls, and 
square within square, known as the Tuscan border, and so often found on Greek 
and Etruscan vases, as well as on similar ornamental designs that were afterwards 
adopted by the Eomans. The following forms are of an age 1600 years prior to 
the Christian era. 

The walls of the palaces were inlaid with precious metals, ebony, and ivory. 
Lucan thus describes the banqueting hall of Cleopatra : — 

" Thick golden plates the latent beams infold, 
And the high roof was fretted o'er with gold. 
Of solid marble all the walls were made, 
And onyx even the meaner floor inlaid ; 
While porphyry and agate round the court, 
In massy columns rose a proud support. 
Of solid ebony each post was wrought, 
From swarthy Meroe profusely brought. 
With ivory was the entrance crusted o'er, 
And polished tortoise hid each shining door ; 
While on the cloudy spots enchased was seen 
The lively emerald's never failing green." 

In concluding this brief analysis of the Ornamental Arts in Egypt, we cannot 
but advert to the remarkable analogy between the construction of the hieroglyphic 
names and standards of the ancient Egyptian monarchs, and the quartering of arms 
in modern heraldry. In the hieroglyphic inscriptions every king bears two names, 
each enclosed within an oval. In these ovals are blazoned the bearings derived 
from the prenomen and second name of the father, or from the wife and her father, 
similar to the manner in which the blazon of the husband and wife are impaled in 



modern shields; and from these symbols of descent or alliance we can trace the origin 
and extraction of the Pharoahs of Ancient Egypt. Nor is this the only analog}', the 
resemblance obtains through the whole system ; and an ancient oval, crested with its 
ostrich, and flanked with the royal basilisk, was almost identical with a modern 
escutcheon with its supporters. It seems probable, therefore, that our heraldic 
system is an offshoot of the ancient blazonry of names and banners adapted to 
European customs and requirements, and that the rudiments of this, as well as those 
of every other department of ornamental art, were known four thousand years ago. 


The extent to which the Greeks improved on the designs of the Egyptians is very 
remarkable, and .eminently calculated to impress us with the highest opinion of their 
genius and taste. In Egypt we find the rudiments of all the arts that tend to 
advance social refinement ; in Greece we find those rudiments formed into systems 
of beauty and symmetry. All the ornamental designs of the Greeks, whether in 
articles of dress or furniture, whether in their private dwellings or their public 
structures, were characterized by great simplicity and elegance. Having studied 
thoroughly the principles developed in the works of the Egyptians, the Greeks 
caught the spirit in which they were conceived, and quickly surpassed their teachers. 
What the lotus and palm had been to the former, the acanthus and honeysuckle 
became to the latter ; and forms based on these indigenous plants were used in 
ornamenting every article of dress, as well as in the decoration of every public edifice. 
The source of design being fully explored, the art soon became sufficiently under- 
stood. An infinite variety of graceful outline and exquisite proportion was exhibited 
in the public temples and sculptures by which they were adorned; and the craftsmen 
of Greece, thus familiarized to the sight of beauty, became capable of discriminating, 
as if instinctively, between what was incongruous and what possessed the charm 
of unity. The contemplation of the ornamental sculptures on these matchless 
structures would suggest to the mechanic the propriety of generalizing his ideas of 
nature, and would enable him to select and arrange her productions to suit the 



requirements of his particular branch of art. In this way alone can we account for 
the universal presence of that beauty which distinguishes all their works. 

The Grecians seem not to have attached so much value to costly material as to 
fine design ; and even when rich dresses and gorgeous furnishings were used, they 
were chiefly valued on account of their elegance and delicacy of execution. Their 
lamps, for example, were not of gold or silver, but of brass, wrought by the best 
sculptor that the purchaser could afford to employ; and the metal was left to its 
natural tarnish to show the work to advantage. 

It is to be regretted that we have not been able to obtain a more complete 
knowledge of the internal arrangements and adornments of the private dwelling- 
houses of Greece. We know, however, that this singular people were universally 
animated by a desire to extend and perpetuate the national glory, and that all their 
surplus wealth was voluntarily contributed towards the erection of those beautiful 
temples, which have never been equalled, and which still remain the admiration of 
the world. There is every reason, therefore, to believe that their dwelling-houses 
were furnished in a plain and unostentatious manner; but however homely the 
material of which their household utensils were made, the shapes into which they 
were fashioned were singularly elegant and graceful. The antique jug, basket, and 
chair here shown, will give an idea of the exquisite taste of the Greeks in form, 
carried into the most ordinary utensils, and developed in the most common furniture. 

If the ordinary utensils and common articles of furniture were thus beautiful, the 
vases which were set aside for sacred purposes or extraordinary occasions were emi- 


nently so ; and while they were exceedingly varied in design, they were invariably 
graceful and elegant in form. Artistic talent of the highest order was engaged in 
their enrichment ; and many of the most choice specimens of Grecian art are to be 
found adorning those interesting relics of antiquity. Nor is this to be wondered at : 
the material of which they were formed was likely to endure for ever ; and the high 
purposes to which they were destined were calculated to call forth all the energy and 
enthusiasm of the artists employed in their production. The designs on the vases 
for temples either illustrated the mythological history or the religious services of the 
deity in whose worship they were engaged. On those which were awarded as prizes 
at the Olympic games, the designs were generally allegorical, and represented 
virtuous and heroic deeds. Others used for funereal purposes were frequently 
adorned with devices emblematic of the life and character of the deceased ; and from 
the multiplicity of designs preserved in these monuments we derive the most 
important information concerning the history, dresses, and customs of the ancient 

Recent discoveries have shown that the finest structures of Greece were 
gorgeously decorated with positive colours ; and in a country where the fine arts 
were so highly appreciated, and where all the national edifices were constructed on 
principles of the most perfect symmetry, there can be no doubt that the same 
exquisite perception of beauty in the harmony of colour would be apparent in their 
chromatic arrangements. We know also that groups of figures skilfully executed 
and gracefully arranged, embodying lofty conceptions and elevated sentiments, 
adorned the chief places in their temples ; while ornaments, consisting of beautiful 
flowers, and leaves of elegant form, were introduced with the most exquisite skill, and 
in a manner that made them appear as if fresh and glistening from the hand of 
nature. In the ornaments in the finest of the Greek temples, such as the 
Erechtheum, we find, in every portion of the detail, a strong resemblance to the 
sources from which they had been derived. Ornamental astragals, for example, are 
direct imitations of the strung pearls used in female decoration ; the holly leaf 
enriches the mouldings of the doorways ; the plait ornament at top and bottom of 
the shafts of columns is a precise imitation of a plait of silk ribbon ; and the close 
resemblance which those foliated ornaments with which apices, friezes, and capitals 
are enriched, bear to the acanthus and the honeysuckle, shows distinctly the origin 
of these beautiful decorations. The following remarks on Grecian Ornament, by 



Mr Kinnard, in the supplement to Stuart's e Athens/ are in unison with this 
opinion : — ' The elemental form of such decorations is to be traced in the earliest 
contemporary specimens of Etruscan and .ZEginetan art. The Pelasgi, who founded 
the Hellenic and Etruscan nations, carried with them into the countries they colo- 
nized, manners, arts, and religion. The similitude of the forms of the ornamental 
sculpture of the distinct and distant nations they founded, renders it evident that 
they originally referred to one common prototype as connected with Oriental 
idolatry; and the sacred plant of the East, called Tamara, and by the ancient 
Greeks Cyamus, was probably the venerated object. That prototype, however, was 
abandoned and forgotten anterior to the age of the earliest relics of Grecian art, 
wherein we find imaginary curves of capricious formation ; but when the arts had 
reached a higher state of refinement, we find their ornaments approximate to the 
principle of general vegetation, skilfully accommodated to the rectilinear formality 
of architecture — until, in the hands of the sculptors of the Periclean era, amid a 
people entertaining a remarkable passion for flowers, the Anthemion arrived at that 
character of elegance which established it as a model to posterior ages.' 

The following copies are given as illustrative of these inferences : — No. 1, the 
most ancient, is of a hard and stiff style, and there is no imitation of any plant ; but 
there would be little difficulty in tracing the change to richer embellishment, more 
imitative of vegetable nature, until perfection was attained in No. 2, the Anthemion 

No. 1. 

No. 2. 

of the Erechtheum. In other cases, the ornament is executed with many varieties of 
detail, and teeming with new and tasteful combinations. The progress of ornamental 



foliage in Gothic architecture was similar. At first no vegetable prototype seems to 
have been contemplated ; but, as the style advanced to perfection, Nature was pro- 
gressively more regarded. The following account, given by Vitruvius, of the origin 
of the capital of the Corinthian order, gives additional force to these remarks, and 
may tend to impress more deeply on the mind of the student the importance of 
looking to nature as the primal source of all beauty : — 

' A young maiden of Corinth having died, her nurse collected in a basket the 
trinkets which had pleased her when alive — placed them over her grave, and covered 
the whole with a tile. The basket happened to be placed over the root of an 
acanthus plant, the leaves and shoots of which grew up round the basket, and curled 
round the angles of the tile. This interesting combination attracted the attention 
of Calimachus, the architect, who from thence designed the beautiful capital of the 
Corinthian column.' 

The characteristic of Grecian ornament is elegant simplicity. Its curvatures are 
flowing, its proportions are symmetrical, and its features are altogether so varied 
and attractive, that we always hail them with delight, whether enriching the archi- 
tectural detail of our public or private buildings, or ornamenting our most elegant 
articles of furniture or vertu. 


The Romans, who perfected their arts by those of Greece, and who in their early 
efforts had the assistance of Greek artists, ultimately engrafted on their original 
models a richer luxuriance of leafy embellishment; and although in many cases their 
works are deficient in symmetrical proportion, they are invariablv gorgeous and 
imposing. The Grecian style of ornament corresponds with the character of a 
nation that had enlightened the world, the Roman with that of a people who had 
conquered it. 

The excavation of Herculaneum and Pompeii, cities which had been suddenly 
buried in the midst of their prosperity, and had remained undisturbed for nearly 
seventeen centuries, has revealed to us many of the most remarkable peculiarities in 



the domestic economy of the ancient Romans, and has enabled us to ascertain the 
precise state of the arts as practised by them at that eventful period of their history. 
From these remains, it appears that the Romans had their houses furnished and 
decorated in the most sumptuous manner. The walls were enriched with coloured 
marbles and historical paintings, and the Arabesque style of decoration seems to 
have been universally prevalent. This style was introduced in the time of Augustus, 
previous to which it was customary with the Romans to paint the walls of their 
apartments one uniform colour, relieved by modelled ornaments. 

One peculiarity in the mode of decorating the walls of Pompeian houses is worthy 
of notice, on account of its showing how well the artists understood the true prin- 
ciples of decoration. In the natural landscape, we find that the dark masses are in 
the foreground, the middle tints in the middle distance, and the light itself in the 
sky. In the houses of Pompeii, the dark colours are placed lowest, the shades becom- 
ing lighter as they approach the ceiling ; the arrangement of, tint thus conforming 
to the rule observed in nature. In some instances, it is true, this is very crudely 
carried out ; but, even in such cases, the principles found in nature are adhered to, 
principles which, when employed in internal decoration, under well regulated taste, 
never fail to produce the most pleasing effects — giving at once airiness and dignity 
to the apartment to which they have been applied. 

The influence which Etruria exercised over the Roman arts, at the period referred 
to, is visible in many of the decorations ; many of the ornamental borders and scrolls 
on the walls of the houses of Pompeii and Herculaneum bearing a striking resemblance 
to those on Etruscan vases. In almost all cases, these decora- 
tions, though singularly bold and free, seem to have been 
executed without any preliminary tracing or drawing, and the 
opposite sides of the same forms were, in consequence, seldom 
if ever precisely similar. In many of the Arabesque combina- 
tions, representations of native plants and flowers are to be 
seen, showing how highly the Romans appreciated, and how 
readily they introduced into their decorations, the graceful 
A I A and beautiful in nature. The borders here shewn are from 
Gell's ' Pompeii,' and are extremely elegant. 
It will be observed that the leading lines of these borders are eliptical, and that 
they are Grecian in character. It may, therefore, be inferred that they were exe- 


cuted .at a very early period. In the enrichments and embellishments of Roman 
buildings at a subsequent period, we find that the arrangements and curvatures arc 
circular. The Romans preferred the rose to the lotus or the honeysuckle, and the 
preference is distinctly visible in the capitals, friezes, and mouldings of their build- 
ings, as well as in their ornamental wreaths and devices ; while those unique Roman 
vases, so many specimens of which have been discovered in almost every part of the 
civilized world, are of similar character, both in general design and in minor detail. 
This peculiarity constitutes the chief difference between the ornamental designs of 
the Greeks and Romans. In the former the leading lines are eliptical, in the latter 
they are circular ; and as the elipse is found to be prevalent in every branch of the 
animal and vegetable kingdoms, it may safely be asserted that the ornamental arts of 
Greece were superior to those of Rome. The Romans seem to have preferred the 
circle so soon as they had freed themselves from the trammels of their predecessors, 
the Greeks, and had begun to design for themselves ; and this is sufficiently illus- 
trated by the following ornament from a ceiling of Pompeii, wherein the leading 
curves and general design are altogether circular : — 

This ornament, which is a very early specimen of the style in which figures and 
foliage are connected, bears a striking resemblance to the Arabesques of Raphael, 
and confirms the belief that that great artist, in his decorative designs for the Vati- 
can, followed the general character of the ornamental designs found in the Baths of 

In no department of ornamental decoration did the Romans attain greater 
proficiency than in their Mosaic or tesselated pavements, which must have been 
produced at a very moderate expense, as a great number of the ordinary houses of 
Pompeii have been laid with this beautiful flooring. These Mosaics are chiefly com- 



posed of black frets or meandering patterns on a white ground, or white ones on a 
black ground; but in some instances they are executed in coloured marbles, and 
have a magnificent appearance. Many fine pictures, brilliantly executed in Mosaic, 
have also been found in Pompeii, and specimens of all the different kinds, many of* 
them surpassingly beautiful, have been dug up in various parts of London during 
the last century. 

The Romans were also acquainted with the art of manufacturing and colouring- 
glass, which they applied to many purposes of household ornament. Pliny mentions 
an artificer who had invented flexible glass, but who was banished, lest the discovery 
should injure the working jewellers, by superseding the use of gold and silver drink- 
ing cups. Many of the ornamental drinking glasses found in Pompeii are of the 
most elegant form, bearing evidence of a thorough knowledge and extensive practice 
of the art which produced them. 

In the working and mixing of metals, the ancient Romans possessed great skill, 
and the art of inlaying one metal with another was much in repute amongst them. 
Silver ornaments were generally inlaid with gold, and bronze lamps and candelabra 
were on many occasions inlaid with silver ornaments. Among the numerous speci- 
mens of Roman art that remain to us, none are more curious than the lamps and 
candelabra. On these utensils the Romans seem to have lavished all their powers of 
fancy and invention, giving them the most graceful forms, and ornamenting them in 
the richest manner. The candelabra, indeed, were one of the most elegant articles 
of furniture in use, and were generally models of taste, in form, proportion, 
ornament, and execution. In many cases the type was preserved of the object 
from which the design had been taken, as in the case of the stem or reed, 
used in early times for raising the light to a convenient height. In such ex- 
amples, the buds or shoots which adorn the shaft, in imitation of those on the ori- 
ginal material, afford a firm grasp to the hand, shewing that the Romans well knew 
the art of making ornaments conduce to the utility of that which they served to 

The manner in which the dining-room of a Roman noble was furnished, has 
been thus described by Mazois : — 

' The walls, to a certain height, were ornamented with valuable hangings. Other 
portions were divided into compartments adorned with garlands of ivy and vine. 
Paintings, representing high festivals, were surrounded with Arabesque borders. 




The apartment was lighted by bronze lamps, dependent from chains of the same 
material, or raised on richly wrought candelabra. Tables, made of citron-wood, 
rested on ivory feet, and were covered by a plate of silver, chased and carved with 
exquisite skill. Couches, which contained thirty persons, were made of bronze, 
overlaid with ornaments in silver, gold, and tortoise-shell, the cushions covered with 
stuff's woven and embroidered with silk mixed with threads of gold.' 

Like all martial nations, the Romans bestowed 
much care upon their military costumes and imple- 
ments of war, enriching them with every sort of 
appropriate ornaments their fancy could suggest. 
Their cuirasses, helmets, swords, and shields, were 
inlaid in the richest manner. Their war-chariots 
were models of elegance, and their horses were capa- 
risoned with the richest trappings. The ornaments 
on the portion of the cuirass, here shown, com- 
bine the elements of the foliated and geometric de- 
signs of the Romans, and give an idea of the place 
the circle held in their ornamental decorations. 


It will not be deemed irrelevant to an inquiry of this kind, to advert briefly to 
certain points of resemblance between the architectural and sculptural remains of 
ancient Egypt, India, and America, as well as to the similarity in the forms of vases 
and other articles of manufacture found in these distinct and widely separated coun- 
tries. In the depths and solitudes of what were once believed to be the primeval 
forests of Central America, have recently been discovered huge pyramids, rivalling 
in extent those of Egypt ; sculptural altars and idols ornamented in the most beaut i- 


ful and elaborate manner, and colossal heads closely approximating in magnitude 
and expression those of Egypt and India. In Peru, vases of ancient manufacture 
have been found, ornamented with the Yitruvian scroll and Grecque border ; and, 
although we know not how these arts found their way in remote times from one 
distant nation to another, we cannot doubt, from the similarity in their leading 
features, that they had one common origin. 

The similarity between the idols and altars of India and America is very remark- 
able. In both countries, the former are profusely adorned with trinkets and jewellery 
— the neck and bosom generally displaying double and triple rows of necklaces — 
from which, in many instances, are pendant brooches of immense size and beautiful 
form. The waist is encircled with richly embroidered sashes and belts, having 
tassels, fringes, and other ornamental appendages. The dress is frequently diapered 
with quatre-foils, and other geometric figures. From the ears depend rich and 
massive rings and drops ; while the arms and wrists are adorned with bracelets, and 
the heads with lofty plumes of feathers. In all these points the stone idols of India 
and America approximate closely. But there are still other and more remarkable 
instances of resemblance. In the monuments of both countries the effigies are fre- 
quently seated in the Oriental fashion, and in both, also, do we find the principal 
figures of colossal size, while those of a subordinate character are of small dimen- 
sions. The personages represented seem, in some cases, to be engaged in the 
ordinary business of life, but more frequently in the act of worshipping or amusing 
the idol to whose service they have been devoted. In all cases, whether merry or 
sad, tragical or comical, the feeling or sentiment desired to be pourtrayed, is faithfully 
expressed. The humour displayed in the grotesque attitudes of some of the figures 
is singularly forcible; while the death's-heads and cross-bones, with which our 
sepulchres were wont to be so profusely adorned, have their counterparts on the 
monuments of Central America. 

A knowledge of geometry, and a love for geometrical decoration, seem to have 
prevailed both in India and America. We find in Dupaix's 'American Monu- 
ments,' an endless variety of circular designs cut in stone — the divisions being made 
in the planes of the circles in every conceivable variety, and being divided invariably 
according to geometric rules. The representation, No. 1, of a carved stone, from 
Dupaix's work, affords sufficient evidence of the existence of mathematical knowledge 
among the ancient Americans ; while the representation, No. 2, of an ornamental 



stone on the gateway at Dipaldinna at Amrawutty, shows that geometrical decora- 
tion was understood and practised by the ancient Indians. 

No. 1. 

No. 2. 

In both of these examples, the circle is divided and subdivided in the most 


scientific manner ; the first exhibiting a strong resemblance to Moorish, the second 
to Grecian ornament. 

There is one remarkable feature in those interesting relics recently discovered in 
America, which merits special attention. Even a cursory observer, in looking over 
the illustrations of the works of Dupaix or Stephens, must be struck with the strong 
resemblance which many of the ornaments have to the Elizabethan style of decora- 
tion. Many of these ornaments, had they been found in England, would have been 
claimed as beautiful specimens of that style, and will certainly bear comparison 
with the best ornamental forms of that period. 

An inquiry, which might not be unprofitably followed out, suggests itself here. 
Might not the Elizabethan style have been founded on, or borrowed from the Ame- 
rican ? It seems not improbable that some of the English adventurers of that 
period, being struck with the novelty and beauty of the architecture of the New 
World, may have brought home drawings of the specimens they met with there ; 
and to such circumstances the Elizabethan style of ornament, so full ef wild and 
irregular fancies, may have been indebted for its origin. The desire for novelty in 
architecture and decoration at that time, amounted to a passion. The Church of 
Rome had become unpopular, and with it the beautiful style of architecture with 
which it was associated. Mr Stephens describes these American structures as full 
of symmetry and grandeur ; and remarks of one at Uxmal, that if it stood on its 
artificial terrace in Hyde Park, or the garden of the Tuilleries, it would form a new 
order not unworthy to stand beside the remains of Egyptian, Grecian, and Roman 
art. If the general effect of these buildings was so imposing, and the ornamental 
detail similar to that generally termed Elizabethan, it is not improbable that we 
owe this style to America. By whom these ancient structures were raised, or at 
what period, is unknown, and will in all probability ever remain so. They must, 
however, have been built many centuries before that style of ornament was known 
in Europe. 

The remains of the ancient structures of India and America afford conclusive 
evidence that the art of decorative painting had been extensively practised in adorn- 
ing the buildings of both countries. In almost all the ancient Hindoo temples and 
pagodas, vestiges of gilding and colouring are still traceable ; and Mr Catherwood, 
the artist who accompanied Mr Stephens on his interesting tour through America, 
on inspecting minutely the extensive ruins of Palenque and Uxmal, found that the 



chief portions had been decorated In the most gorgeous manner, all the elaborate 
detail of the relieved ornament having been picked in with gold and colour. 

The rich costume represented on the monuments of Hindostan and Yucatan, 
shows that those arts which administer to the elegancies and refinements of life had 
been extensively patronised and practised in both these countries ; and perhaps 
some of the most interesting illustrations in Dupaix's work arc those wherein jewel- 
lers, feather embroiderers, and other tradesmen, are seen engaged in their various 
avocations, their mode of working having been very similar to that practised by the 
workmen of the present day. 

Having now given a brief account of the ornamental arts as practised by those 
nations of remote antiquity, from which the rudiments of many modern arts seem to 
have been derived, we proceed to offer a few remarks on the various styles of orna- 
ment which have recently been employed in decorative works ; and, in doing so, we 
naturally begin with that invented by the Saracens or Moors, after the decline of 
the arts in Rome. 

The Moorish style of decoration was extensively employed at an early period 
m Spain and the adjoining countries ; and the principles on which it is based 
having been universally recognised as correct, the style itself has come into 
very general use in all countries where the decorative arts are cultivated. This 
style seems, on the whole, best adapted for decorating the ceilings, walls, floors, and 
wainscoting of buildings. It presents harmonious combinations of geometrical 
figures, with happy arrangements of rich and exuberant foliage. It makes no 
attempt at deception, in so far as inequality of surface is concerned ; the raised or 
sunk portions of the ornament being on a level, and the decorations depending 
mainly for their effect on harmonious combination of line, and judicious balancing 
of colour. The leading lines, however complicated, are always harmonious ; and 
although rectilineal, angular, circular, and irregular figures, as. well as every variety 
of foliage, are frequently introduced into the same composition, the relation which 
every part bears to another has been so well understood and considered by the 
designer, that the whole seems to have been the result of one conception, at once 
instantaneous and perfect. The colouring of the ancient specimens of this style also 
shows, on the part of the artist, a thorough acquaintance with those principles 
developed in the works of nature. Hence we find, that those portions intended to 
be brought prominently forward, either to enhance some point, or to give effect to 


the general design, have been gilded or painted in light colours, while those meant 
to appear of less importance have been painted in gradations of tints and colours ; 
the former heightened with brilliant leaf-gold, the latter sobered down to dusky 

Here we cannot help adverting to what we consider one of the finest features in 
this style of ornament, namely, the uniform and entire absence in these designs of 
the human figure, and of all animal life. Demi-figures springing from foliage, cen- 
taurs, mermaids, and other nondescripts, so frequently introduced into the grotesques 
of the Romans and Italians, and which are still frequently used in modern deco- 
rations, we cannot help regarding as a barbarism, obnoxious to the principles of 
pure taste, and to right feeling. The vegetable world abounds with varieties of 
beautiful forms, susceptible of exciting the purest feelings, and suggestive of end- 
lessly diversified design ; thus presenting at once an inexhaustible and unobjection- 
able source of original and graceful ornament. Those nations that have excelled in 
the ornamental arts have collected the materials of their first and purest composi- 
tions from favourite plants and flowers, the legitimate source of decorative design. 
The Moors, therefore, excelled in this department of art, by combining an intimate 
knowledge of geometrical lines and figures, with a high appreciation of the beautiful 
in nature ; employing the former in tracing the leading features of designs, and the 
latter, in the shape of leaves and flowers, in filling up the detail. 

Several of the plates in this work show adaptations of the Moorish style to 
various arts, such as bookbinding, metal casting, &c. ; and when it becomes more 
generally understood, there can be little doubt it will be more extensively used 
and appreciated in others of the decorative arts. For paper-hangings, for instance, 
there cannot be a more appropriate style than the flat configuration of Moorish 
ornament, filled in with positive colours, and defined by decided outline. Many 
specimens of paper-hangings, which have been admired for their skilful manipulation 
and delicate blending of colour, appear petit and out of place in large apartments. 
The attempts so frequently made in such cases to represent a repetition of small 
bouquets of flowers is injudicious, and suggests ideas of meanness and vulgarity. A 
more legitimate kind of ornament for the walls of rooms can scarcely be conceived 
than well balanced geometrical combinations of leading forms, relieved by foliage, 
the configuration of which has been carefully copied from nature, and which cannot 
be too homely nor too familiar. In this way, by following the example of the 


Moors, every nation may be able to establisb a stylo of decoration peculiar to itself, 
because drawn from its peculiar sources, and fraught, at the same time, with the 
most pleasing and delightful associations. 

In concluding these remarks on the Moorish style of decoration, it may be men- 
tioned, that in the palace of the Alhambra, founded in the thirteenth century, the 
ceilings were richly stuccoed and ornamented with arabesques of exquisite beauty, 
which had been cast and fitted into each other so accurately, that the joinings could 
not be detected by the eye. The walls were covered with mosaics of similar cha- 
racter ; and the furniture was made of citron, sandal, and aloe woods, inlaid with 
ivory and mother-of-pearl, intermixed with burnished gold and cerulean blue ; vases 
of costly and curious workmanship were formed of porcelain, rock crystal, mosaic 
and sardonyx ; and the whole of the furnishings and decoratians of this wonderful 
palace show that the ornamental arts had been as thoroughly understood and prac- 
tised by the Moors as ever they were at any period of the world's history with which 
we are acquainted. 

The Gothic style of ornament comes naturally to be considered after that of the 
Moors, to which, in some of its features, it bears considerable resemblance. Pre- 
viously to doing so, however, it seems requisite to advert to one peculiarity in the 
style of embellishment adopted at an early period in the churches of Byzantia ; a 
style from which much that is excellent in Gothic ornament has been borrowed, and 
on which the Moorish mode of decoration was originally founded. 

When Christianity was first embraced by the Roman emperors, the Pagan relics 
of antiquity, consisting of sculptures, bronzes, and pictures, were destroyed, and all 
attempts to introduce such decorations into churches were strictly prohibited. In 
Rome, however, which contained many of these ancient Pagan relics, this Iconoclas- 
tic order was not obeyed, and hence the division of the early Christians into the 
Greek and Latin churches. At length some tangible symbols of religious faith were 
desiderated at Constantinople, and effigies of saints or martyrs, or symbolic figures 
belonging to some holy persons, or symbolic pictures relating to some of the attri- 
butes of Christianity, in mosaic work, of marble, enamel, or coloured glass, were exe- 
cuted on the walls of the Byzantine churches. This soon became popular, and the 
symbolism thus invented spread with great rapidity among the early Christians, and 
continued to be used through succeeding ages in all the modifications of ecclesiastical 
architecture. The cross, the palm branch, the eagle, the dove, the lamb, the fish, 


and other emblems in the calendar of the Church of Rome were all originally intro- 
duced by the Byzantines into the Mosaics of their churches — the entire absence of 
sculptured effigies from the latter constituting the chief difference between the deco- 
rations of the Greek and the Latin Churches. 

The ornamental decorations connected with the Gothic style of architecture are 
characterised by every variety of geometrical combination, and enriched by the most 
perfect imitation of natural leaves and foliage. No style of architecture can boast of 
more varied excellencies ; no style of ornament is characterised by more exuberant 
fancy, correct taste, and delicacy of execution. Every ornament in the pointed 
structures of the best period was pregnant with meaning, every enrichment full of 
design ; and, from the golden vane that glittered on the summit of the spire, to the 
tesselated pavement that adorned the floor, every portion of the ornamental detail 
was in perfect harmony, each and all tending to enhance the general effect, which 
was at once gorgeous and overpowering. 

On examining the progress of Gothic ornamental design, it is easy to trace its 
gradual advancement from imitations of existing models to original adaptations, and 
combinations from nature and from geometry. Most of the ornamental mould- 
ings used in Norman structures, were borrowed either from Ancient Rome or from 
specimens existing at that period in France and Lombardy. Those sculptured 
wreaths of the bay, the vine, and the ivy, found in the early Norman churches, have 
a close resemblance to similar devices used in the decorations of Ancient Rome ; 
and the grotesque heads on tbe blocks and corbels of some of the early Norman 
structures had been previously prevalent in France and Italy. 

In the ornamental decorations of the early English, or primary pointed style, we 
find a new feature introduced — namely, the use of simple geometric figures in con- 
nexion with natural foliage. Four-leaved flowers are displayed on square panels. 
Circular spaces are filled with trefoils and quatrefoils ; while the foliage on the capi- 
tals, and the crockets running along the edges of spires or pinnacles, bear evidence 
that it has been imitated, although somewhat clumsily, from nature. In the deco- 
rated and perpendicular styles of Gothic, we have an endless variety of geometric 
combinations, and a profusion of natural foliage, skilfully and delicately carved — the 
natural form of the plant or leaf imitated being closely followed in every instance, 
and every peculiarity minutely and carefully delineated. The oak, the ivy, the vine, 
and the fern, together with the leaf of the dock and parsley, were sculptured with 


wonderful fidelity, and introduced with the most felicitous effect ; the value of these 
representations of homely objects being more readily felt and appreciated than 
delineations of leaves, plants, and flowers of foreign production. Nothing in the 
whole range of ornamental art is finer than the free combinations of soft luxuriant 
foliage with which the chief points of these Gothic structures were adorned. 
Crockets, pinnacles, finials, capitals, bosses and pendants, were all directly copied 
from nature. 

The ornaments were also selected with singular taste, and arranged with great 
judgment. So judiciously, indeed, were they distributed, that a celebrated writer 
has remarked, that ' the ornaments, although profusely used, might have been left 
out, without impairing the general effect of the building.' In connexion with these 
skilful adaptations from nature, the structures of the period alluded to were enriched 
by an endless variety of geometric figures, such as circles, trefoils, quatrefoils, cinque- 
foils, &c, suggesting ideas of correct construction and symmetrical harmony. In the 
proportions of these beautiful edifices, in the groinings of the ceilings, in the tracery 
of the windows, in the symmetry of the shafts and columns, and in the enrichments 
of mouldings, capitals, string-courses, niches, and canopies, we find the combina- 
tion of geometrical forms with natural foliage constantly occurring, and with the 
most admirable effect. Such specimens, therefore, yield abundant proof, that when 
a designer's taste is regulated by the first principles of proportion, he cannot draw 
too largely from the great storehouse of nature. Let him first learn to produce a 
symmetrical form, and then study how to enrich it with befitting adornment. 

In the colouring of Gothic decorations, the positive colours were invariably used 
in their fullest intensity, and with the richest and most harmonious effects. Some- 
times they were used sparingly, at others profusely ; the structure glowing, from floor 
to ceiling, with red, blue, and gold. The painted glass in the windows gave the 
key-note to the general harmony, and its power and brilliancy required that the walls, 
ceilings, and floors, should either be studded or entirely covered over with the most 
vivid colours. This necessity doubtless suggested the introduction of those oi'na- 
mental tiles, so many specimens of which have been from time to time discovered 
in ancient Gothic churches, and the manufacture of which is now carried on so 
extensively in England. In the colouring of the ornamental decorations, care was 
always taken that prominence should be given to the chief points and features of 
the edifice, the receding and minor portions being painted in subdued tints, or in a 


less obtrusive manner ; and the decorators seem to have worked on similar principles 
with those formerly adverted to in connexion with the arabesques of the Alhambra, 
and other Moorish decorations. 

All the leading forms used in Gothic ornaments had a symbolic reference. The 
trefoil and equilateral triangle, for example, were emblems of the Trinity ; and when 
inclosed within a circle, the Trinity and Unity of Deity was referred to. Emblems 
and monograms were also much in use. The cross was introduced every where, and 
decorated in every conceivable manner ; and monograms and emblems, having 
reference to the three persons in the Godhead, were largely employed. On the fur- 
niture of the churches, as well as on the robes, mitres, and croziers of the priests, 
similar devices were repeated ; and the chief aim of all these splendid ecclesias- 
tical decorations was, to place continually before the eye signs or embodiments of 
the leading and peculiar features of the Christian faith. In the palaces and man- 
sions of that period, the ornaments are also full of appropriate emblems and symbols. 
The heraldic blazon of the noble families to whom they belonged always forms a 
prominent feature ; and the entire system of Gothic decoration may with propriety 
be termed an extended and comprehensive system of heraldry. 

The illuminated missals of the Middle Ages are characterised by much that is 
beautiful, in form and colour, in design and execution. Nothing can be conceived 
more delicately elaborated than some of these exquisite productions. Always 
teeming with thought, and pregnant with meaning, there is no source from which a 
designer can derive more benefit, than from these storehouses of design. 

The gradual blending of the castle with the mansion, which took place in the 
reigns of the latter Henrys, led to a demand for ornamental decorations in con- 
nexion with domestic architecture, which had never previously obtained in England, 
and which at length produced those comfortable and highly-ornamental mansion- 
houses, known by the term Elizabethan. 

In the reign of Elizabeth, the nobility and gentry vied with each other in the 
erection of splendid and profusely decorated mansions ; and although these decora- 
tions are not always characterised by harmonic proportion, they display great ferti- 
lity of invention, and have a picturesque effect, which renders them exceedingly 

The complexity of form and enrichment in Elizabethan ornament is very re- 
markable, rendering it extremely difficult to discover on what principles it was 


based, It combines a greater variety of leading forms than any other school of 
decoration ; and several of its features seem to have been selected from a variety of 
foreign styles, and to have been grafted on the home-bred Tudor, which imme- 
diately preceded its introduction. The chief portions of the architecture, however, 
are peculiarly English ; and although most of the mouldings are Eoman,* the pen- 
dants, pinnacles, and ceilings are essentially Gothic in their leading features, while 
the ornamental window-tops and brick chimneys were features in the street architec- 
ture of that period not found any where but in England. 

At an early stage of Elizabethan architecture, heraldic badges were adopted as 
leading ornaments; and the rose, thistle, fleur-de-lis, and pomegranate, are very freely 
used, either as central points to window-tops, or as finials to the pedimented fronts of 
that period. Grotesque and scroll shields, containing armorial bearings, were also 
much in use; and on the scroll turnings of the shield, pinnacles were frequently 
perched, while at other times they projected in all directions from the various 
angles of similar ornaments. Pinnacles are possessed of great variety of form ; the 
most characteristic are perforated, and bound round the centre with fillets. Eliza- 
bethan scrolls are generally imitations of paper or parchment scrolls, half unrolled ; 
and, when used for the ground- work of shields, their effect in light and shadow is 
picturesque and powerful. 

In Elizabethan ornament, fines are to be found at every degree of obliquity. 
Oblong squares and angular diamonds are often placed in rows, relieved, surrounded, 
or bound together by trefoliated or zig-zag borderings, which are to be met with in 
every conceivable variety and combination. Squares, ellipses, circles, and rigfit- 
angled figures are inlaid or surrounded with bands and garters, which are either 
perforated or interlaced, or appear to be fixed on with bolt-heads of various shapes 
and sizes, sometimes resembling bosses, sometimes square or octagonal nail heads. 
The ellipse is very frequently used as a centre, surrounded with scroll-work, and 
studded with numerous bolts, which, when used even in stone-work, suggest the 
idea of timber framing, morticed and bolted together. Jewels and precious stones 
are also copiously imitated, both in carving and colouring ; and in some instances 
this is carried to such an extent, that the entire detail of the ornament seems an 
imitation of jewellery. 

* The egg-and-dart moulding of the Elizabethan style is little removed from that of the Eoman. 


Elizabethan ceilings are pannelled in every conceivable manner, richly moulded, 
with an immense number of angles ; and in many of the richly carved oak ceilings of 
that style, a great variety of geometrical figures are apparent, although in arrange- 
ment and proportion they are deficient in that harmony and symmetry for which 
Moorish and Gothic decorations are remarkable. Soffits, and corbels or brackets 
have generally a rich perforated effect, and the backgrounds of many pannels and 
pilasters, which are enriched by fret or scroll ornament, are pierced with small 
holes, which gives the ground a frosted appearance, and by contrast, renders the 
ornament more effective. 

The intermixed, perforated, and bolted ornaments, found in the window-tops of 
Elizabethan mansions, are sufficiently eccentric, and are chiefly composed of scrolls 
and volutes, joined by horizontal, perpendicular, and angular bars, with jewelled 
centres, surmounted with pinnacles, and interlaced with laurel or flowers. The inter- 
twining of the different members, in such cases, gives the ornament a soft and plastic 
effect which is exceedingly agreeable. 

All sorts of quaint devices, generally finished in the most elaborate manner, 
are to be found in the carvings of that period. Grotesque heads, satyrs, and other 
nondescripts, are frequently introduced, the effect of which is sufficiently graphic ; 
investing the design with a conversational character perhaps not otherwise attain- 
able. Still, however, such expedients are questionable, suggesting incongruous and 
discordant associations. 

It has been frequently asserted, that the Elizabethan style of ornament has been 
produced by a blending of the Italian with the Tudor, — and we have already admitted 
that in the former there are some features undeniably Italian ; but we still incline 
to believe that the trifoliated and tasselled terminations, with other peculiarities 
observable throughout Elizabethan designs, had been originally imported from 
Central America, and a careful perusal of the works already adverted to, in con- 
nexion with the recent discoveries in that interesting country, will, we think, go far 
to produce a general conviction that many of the details in Elizabethan ornament 
are founded on the examples found in ancient America. The following example 
from Dupaix' work on New Spain will show that this opinion has not been formed 
without due consideration. 



The ornamental decorations of Italy have been long and deservedly held in high 
estimation. They are at once elegant and lively, and harmonize well with those 
elegancies of life found among a lively and refined people. Italian ornament com- 
bines many of the beauties of the ornamental decorations of ancient Greece and 
Rome, and without aiming at classical simplicity or symmetrical proportion, is 
flowing and luxuriant. It is composed chiefly of leaves, tendrils, and flowers ; and 
nothing can be finer than the foliated scrolls on the friezes, — the pateras or roses 
on the ceilings, — or the enrichments on the cornices of Italian apartments. Angles 
are rarely found in these compositions, their leading features consisting chiefly of 
ovoid and circular curves. Figures are frequently introduced into the foliated scroll 
ornamented friezes, and are generally represented sportively engaged in some game, 
playfully twisting and twining the leaves and tendrils, or concealing themselves 
among the foliage or flowers ; and in all such examples, the design is graceful, and 
the effect exceedingly pleasing. The pateras or roses — of which several specimens 
are given in this work — are characterised by great richness and variety, — the leaves, 
like those in Gothic pendants or bosses, are plastic and natural — the flowers rich 


and varied. Ceilings, walls, and doors are panelled in the most elegant and fanciful 
manner, and these panels are enriched by every variety of arabesque, historical, and 
characteristic painting. Domes, cones, and soffits are embellished in the most gor- 
geous manner ; and every portion of the interiors of Italian villas are furnished as 
well as decorated in a manner evincing a high state of social refinement, and a high 
degree of artistic excellence. 

There can be no doubt that the introduction of the Italian style of architecture 
into England by Jones, and its cultivation afterwards by Wren, tended to refine the 
taste and elevate the artistic feeling of the country. Many of our fine modern 
mansions and palaces are in this style, and a large proportion of the beautiful 
balconies, balustrades, window-tops, and door-pieces, which adorn these structures, 
are admirable, both in conception and execution. Like the Elizabethan, which 
immediately preceded its introduction, the Italian style admits of almost every 
variety of design, and is therefore attractive to artists of inventive genius, who 
prefer following the dictates of fancy to obeying the stern injunctions of rule. We 
find, accordingly, that it has always been a favourite with painters ; the divine 
Raphael himself not deeming it unworthy of his genius to execute the ornamental 
decorations on the walls of the Yatican. The celebrated work recently published by 
Grruner, gives a vivid idea of the rich and harmonious colouring with which the 
interiors of Italian palaces are adorned, and may be perused with much profit by 
those whose tame and insipid taste would banish every thing like colour from the 
walls and ceilings of our apartments. 

The arabesque or grotesque style of decoration anciently practised in Rome, and 
afterwards imitated by Raphael, is generally associated with Italian art, and, not- 
withstanding its incongruities, paintings of high merit, in conception and execution, 
are often found intermingling with its playful combinations. Yitruvius, who 
appears to have taken a correct view of the matter, thus describes it : — ' Nothing 
is now represented on walls but monsters, instead of true and natural objects. In 
place of columns there are slender reeds, and temples are supported on mere 
nothingness. Demi-figures spring from flowers — some with human faces, others 
with the heads of beasts ; all things which never have, or ever can be. Such 
designs are not to be esteemed, inasmuch as they are not consonant to nature and 

There is great force and truth in these remarks, and they are as applicable 


to some of the decorations recently executed in our own country, as they were to 
those in the time of Vitruvius. 

Italian ornament, whether in marble, stone, plaster, or painting, in has relief, or 
in alto relief, always aims at complete deception ; and this, together with the 
harmonious flow of line and balance of colour, by which the interior decorations of 
Italian structures are pervaded, always renders them pleasing. Even when mons- 
trosities are introduced, and the detail made up of the most unnatural combinations, 
the colouring is so rich, containing every tint from the deepest purple to the 
brightest gold ; the light and massive portions of the composition are so gracefully 
linked together, that the effect is always agreeable, and although the ^Esthetic taste 
may be offended, the eye is invariably delighted. 

By way of introduction to a brief notice of the French style of ornament, which 
is an offshoot of the Italian, it may here be mentioned that if ever any grotesques were 
to be admired, they were those of Watteau, whose lively designs, and elegant compo- 
sitions, have obtained the admiration of all nations. No painter, perhaps, ever 
combined nature and art so gracefully, — rendered extravagance so pleasing, — or 
laid such a variety of objects under contribution to effect his purposes. Rocks 
and mountains, hills and valleys, streams and waterfalls, trees, plants, leaves and 
flowers, trophies of peace and war, scenes of rustic merriment and of courtly 
pageant, diversified by scenes of touching pathos or broad humour, make up his 
delightful compositions. Take it all in all, we know no style better suited for 
boudoir or arbour decorations than the charming compositions of Watteau, and his 
success in that department shows that no artist, whatever be his standing, ought to 
consider the decorative art beneath him. It seems an admirable field for the 
exercise of genius, and genius can at any and at all times invest it with the 
attributes of high art ; — grace, dignity, and expression. Many of the modern French 
decorators are artists of eminence ; and the decorations of palaces, theatres, and 
public buildings in France, are remarkable for beautiful and appropriate design, as 
well as for rich and harmonious colouring. And why, it may be asked, should not 
British artists do so likewise? They have established a school of high art, no 
unworthy rival to that of France, and why should they not endeavour to equal 
them in this more useful though perhaps more humble department of art ? 

The Reading character and general detail of the French style of ornament may 
be described very briefly. It is much more irregular than the Italian, and full of 


quaint conceits and devices. Angles and curves, of every possible kind, are found 
thrown together without method or arrangement, and pannels are met with of the 
most irregular form, and in many instances without correspondence or balance 
between the opposite sides. Flowers, fruits, animals, and landscapes, are introduced 
into these irregular spaces, which again are surrounded and surmounted with flowing 
and redundant ornament. Yet, strange as it may appear, notwithstanding this want 
of rule, of balance, and of consistency, the effect of these compositions is generally 
pleasing ; nay, in many cases, the greater the contrast between what is termed in a 
regular design the ballancing portions, the more striking is the general effect. All 
sorts of volutes, scrolls, shells, foliage and figures, are introduced into the French 
style of ornament, and the centre points are frequently composed of shells half 
covered with foliage, suggesting a similar idea to that of the Acanthus and the basket 
in the Corinthian capital. Fish scale, lattice-work, and eccentric curved panneling, 
are also much used in brackets, tables, shields, &c. The bodies of some designs are 
ribbed, others perforated, others composed of shells, others of flowers and fruit. In 
the arrangement of the different members, every liberty is taken, and in some cases 
the various portions of detail may be cut asunder, and re-arranged in various ways. 
If they are well drawn and contrasted, the effect is invariably agreeable. 

In colouring, the. French are not so outre as is generally imagined. The Cafes in 
Paris, exhibit in many instances, specimens of chaste simplicity, both in design and 
colouring. It is well-known, moreover, that white heightened with gold, was first 
introduced in connection with the French style of decoration ; and there can be but 
one opinion of the delightful effect produced by that light and beautiful combination. 
In drawing-room furniture, the French style has been extensively adopted, and the 
drawing-room or boudoir seems its legitimate place. It appears, however, an 
incongrous association, when we find mirror-frames, candelabras, couches, chairs, 
tables, books, curtains and carpets, rejoicing in the fantastic forms and gay colours of 
" La Belle France," in juxtaposition with the architectural ornaments and details of 
classic Greece. 

We have now, as originally purposed, given a brief account of the nature and 
peculiarities of the various modes of embellishment and styles of decoration invented 
and practised by different nations ; and, while recommending certain features and 
principles which seemed worthy of imitation, we have endeavoured to impress upon 


the ornamental designer, the propriety of looking to Nature herself as the great 
primal source of all beauty. 

It was .also originally intended to have entered into a careful examination of the 
present state of the ornamental arts, in connection with the manufacture of articles of 
dress, of furniture, and of vertu, as well as with the decorations of public structures 
and private dwellings, both externally and internally. As this important inquiry, 
however, could not be comprised within the limits to which this work is restricted 
for the present, it has been deemed advisable to reserve it for another occasion, and, 
in the meantime, to conclude this essay with a few general remarks and practical 
hints, which may be found useful to those for whom this publication is specially 

On looking at the productions of Nature, we find them exhibiting every variety 
of colour and design. The grey crag has its green moss or verdant lichens, the 
mountain its purple heath, the bough of the tree its glossy foliage, and the banks of 
the stream its wild flowers ; showing the constant propensity of nature to beautify 
and adorn, and suggesting, at the same time, how much ornamental detail en- 
hances the attractions of the most symmetrical works of art. 

The decorative arts, then, are evidently founded in Nature, and from her storehouse 
we must draw the materials for their development. In this, however, as well as in 
the higher departments of art, the artist will be enabled to produce more original, 
as well as more elegant designs, by being intimately conversant with these works, 
which have been long and generally admired. The decorator ought, then, in the 
first place, to make himself familiar with the various styles of embellishment, and 
afterwards endeavour to obtain a clear idea of the elements of symmetrical propor- 
tion, as applicable to ornamental composition. This knowledge may be attained in 
various ways, but is by no means so easily acquired as is generally imagined. Some 
writers recommend the study of geometry for this purpose; others, a close and 
diligent application to Nature, asserting that in flowers and plants may be found all 
the elements of beauty and harmony. We should say that both are necessary, and 
that the progress of the artist will be materially facilitated if, while studying Nature 
and geometry, he makes careful observation of the approved models of antiquity. 
In treating of geometry in connection with symmetrical proportion, writers have 
differed widely, some giving the preference to one figure and some to another. The 
ellipse, however, seems now most generally preferred, and its importance in orna- 


mental design is now universally acknowledged. Our own opinion, as expressed in 
another treatise connected with art,* is, that the preference of the ellipse to the 
circle evinces an advanced stage of refinement, as evidenced by the prevalence of 
ovoid curves in Egyptian and Grecian architecture, as well as in the celebrated 
vases of Etruria. The circle is generally preferred by man in his primitive state ; 
but, after a careful examination of the productions of Nature, he becomes sensible of 
the prevalence of the ellipse in every branch of the animal and vegetable kingdoms. 
However circular their arrangements may be, the petals of all flowers and the leaves 
of all plants are elliptic ; and hence the introduction of the ellipse into ornamental 
compositions always produces a pleasing effect. 

Perhaps, however, the most important element in symmetrical arrangement in 
ornamental composition, is the relation which one form bears to another in har- 
monic proportion, and the capabilities different forms possess of being harmoniously 
arranged and classified. For example, the square and the circle, or the rhomb and 
ellipse, always make a harmonious combination ; but if a square be placed beside 
an ellipse, or a circle beside a rhomb, there is a discordant or inharmonious arrange- 
ment. Extend this principle to other forms, and you have a pretty accurate idea of 
the leading principles of proportion — a knowledge without which egregious blunders 
are committed, even by artists of undoubted talent. 

After a symmetrical leading form has been obtained, the ornamental decorations 
with which it is to be adorned ought to be carefully considered. If the detail be 
crude, inharmonious, or incongruous, the faults are rendered more apparent in conse- 
quence of their contrast to the symmetry of the general design. A form composed 
of elliptic or ovoid curves, suggests elliptic or ovoid leaves ; a form composed of cir- 
cular curves is suggestive of circular arrangements ; while an angular form suggests 
trifoliated or quatrefoliated ornament. This combination is to ornament what com- 
position is to a picture. Without it, there is no concentration, no unity, and the 
entire sentiment and conception is broken and disjointed. 

It ought also to be remembered, that a balance of straight and curved lines is 
indispensable in every extensive work of ornamental decoration. The one enhances 
the other in value. The finest forms in Nature are composed of similar combinations ; 

* Treatise on Painted Glass, showing its applicability to every stylo of Architecture, by James 
Ballantine. London, Chapman and Hall ; Edinburgh, John Menzies. 


and without such contrasts, the general effect of ornamental designs is tame and 
insipid. Variety, as well as regularity, is requisite in all symmetrical compositions. 

A knowledge of botany is indispensable to the ornamental designer. He ought 
not only to be familiar with the form and colour of the different plants and flowers, 
but he ought also to be acquainted with their nature and qualities, and he will thus 
be enabled to avoid those incongruous associations of poisonous weeds and healthy 
flowers which we find often marring otherwise good designs. The trophies of war 
are no longer in repute as emblematic decorations, their place being now happily 
supplied by more agreeable objects — by fruits, flowers, plants, and other productions 
of Nature, suggestive of peaceful and pleasing thoughts, and the aim of the decorator 
ought to be, to foster and encourage this improved and improving taste. 

"Wmckleman has observed, that ' the first grand style of the arts consisted of a 
system of rules borrowed from Nature alone. Afterwards artists plunged into the 
ideal, and, having abandoned truth in their forms, worked after the adopted style 
rather than Nature.' 

To this it may be added, that the main use of studying other styles, and making 
ourselves acquainted with their peculiarities, is to learn that Nature and simpkeitv 
are the leading characteristics of the most approved specimens of the works of 
antiquity. To copy them without knowing and feeling this truth, is to perform a 
merely mechanical process, from which no. useful improvement can result. There 
can be no good reason, in a country like this, where a love of home is so prevalent, 
and where the beauties of nature are so abundant, that our dwellings should be 
adorned with an indiscriminate and slavish adaptation of the ornamental embellish- 
ments of other times and other countries. Hogarth and Wilkie drew their inspira- 
tion from Nature; and hence that truthfulness of delineation in which their great 
excellence consists, and for which they have obtained universal approbation. 
While, therefore, the decorative artist appreciates the excellence of the ornamental 
designs of other times and countries, he must eventually go to the fountain-head — 
to Nature. By no other means need he hope to attain the paramount excellence 
of all art — originality.